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Two sides of the Cu Chi tunnels tour

July 16, 2011
Shooting at Cu Chi tunnels

As any traveller would say, itineraries change and original plans become more of a suggestion once you get into a destination. The same applied for us in Vietnam.

Originally, we were supposed to go to the beaches of  Mui Ne, but we changed plans and opted for the closer Cu Chi complex instead. Nen got sick so an overnight trip with 10 hours cumulative bus travel would not work for us. Also, after an interesting experience at Saigon’s War Remnants Museum, getting on a historic and cultural experience was, in this case, better than lounging on the beach. 😉

At Pham Ngu Lao, tours to Cu Chi were sold as much as Pho were on the streets. It costs 6USD for a half-day tour and 9USD for a full day with an added visit to Cao Dai temple. We were easily sold into it and opted for the latter.

First stop was the Cao Dai temple – a 2-hour road trip from Ho Chi Minh City. The practice of Cao Dai is a combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism – and as many religions promote, it”s dedicated to good living and charity.

Cao Dai temple, Vietnam

The colours of the temple were bold and striking. Red, blue and yellow were everywhere from banderitas,  robes of their high priests, even the emblems inside the temple.  Nen and I actually matched the occasion as we were also standing out with our bold blue and red shirts.

Cao Dai temple, Vietnam

After the short visit, it was another two and a half  hour bumpy ride to Cu Chi tunnel complex.

Once we arrived, we got into the briefing room that was designed during the time of the war. Again, we were bombarded with more anti-American point-of-view, which honestly got tiring.

The actual park was bigger than I imagined, but the tunnels themselves were definitely not for claustrophobics. Nen and I were brave enough to go onto the hole the size of a shoebox. I imagine how hard it was living in such small quarters. But if it’s between life and death, then I think being comfortable wasn”t on the top of their heads. We got to go inside a shorter series of the tunnels too (actually slightly made bigger for the tourists coming).

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It’s ironic actually how the whole tour progressed – from the good teachings promoted by Cao Dai, then a sudden shift to the horrors that was Cu Chi.

Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

They showed us traps the Vietnamese used to brutally kill their enemies. From Trap swing doors and rope swings – it was ingenious to be honest.

You step on the rice field, BAM!  A metal trap waits to capture you.

You open someone’s door, BAM! You’ll be hit with a wooden swing drilled with nails.

The “bad-assery” definitely peaks at the shooting gallery and you get to shoot some enemies yourselves.

The Cu Chi tunnel shooting gallery allows you to shoot using various different rifles – AK47, M16, M4 carbine.  Prices start at 10 USD for 10 rounds of bullets – with the price increasing depending on the gun you”ll use. We only got the carbine – which was the cheapest one.

Shooting range, Cu Chi




Nen & I got 5 rounds each. The feeling? must say pulling the trigger was exhilarating –  as if you suddenly release a big burst of energy.

But well I was not as bad-ass as I thought, perhaps because the target was too far that I don’t even see if I shot something or not. So definitely, no Top Shot or a casting on Wanted 2 yet for me. But it’s something I want to try again!

I love activities with adrenaline rush – and those that can somewhat potentially break your bones. But despite this, I am peaceful and usually all about harmony.  And definitely this tour has in a way brought the good and the bad out of me. 🙂


Active sports

Surfing in La Union

May 6, 2011
Jerick with a surfboard

For someone who panics on deep water,  going surfing is the last thing I would do. But despite my slight agoraphobia, I really wanted to do it.  The fact that you are default “cool” if you surf (at least I think), I just couldn’t pass out an opportunity of increasing my cool points.

So, I and my friends went to the surfing town of San Juan, La Union – a six-hour bus ride from Manila.

San Juan’s part of the major surfing circuit area in the Philippines and to is next  to Siargao as a well-known surfing destination. April’s a surfing low season and the small & gentle waves were perfect for beginner surfers.  The water’s also  only six feet deep,  and that helped me eased up.

We took our lessons with Sebay Surf Central, one of the well- known surf resorts and school in San Juan.

The lessons started  on the ground with the parts of the surfboard, techniques falling properly (so the board doesn’t hit you), finding your balance and paddling out.

Surfing in La Union

But the fun starts when we went on water.  The instructor finds a good wave, shouts “READY!”, and I’m expects me to stand-up.

I remained unsuccessful on the first waves while my friends already managed to stand up.  In between my failures, my instructor would drag me back and correct my mistakes.

“You need to bend your knees”

“You need to step into the middle of the board”

“ Do not kneel  down when you stand”

“ Smile and look cool”

He said  it was all about following the right position, striking the perfect balance on the board and  knowing which wave to catch. And now, you ask, WAS I ABLE  TO STAND-UP?

I’m not the most athletic person and definitely  far from the stereotype surfer but I didn’t need any of that as by the middle of the lesson, I  STOOD UP!

And after a few more attempts, I stood-up longer!  And finally, I got to surf until the beach!

There are no words really to describe the feeling of standing up and actually surfing the waves!

The unfortunate part though was there were no photos of me surfing.  No one took photos as we all went for the lessons. For now,  you just have to take my word for it.

I must say that this experience made me want to go and surf again – maybe in Siargao or even go to Bali or Hawaii. And definitely, I would recommend the Sebay instructors as they made someone as awkward as me to actually surf.

Surfing in San Juan, La Union

I was impressed with my instructor, who patiently taught and got me to surf on the better waves for a better experience.   He’s very passionate about surfing and you can never go wrong with a person who loves what he is teaching.

Surfing for beginners is not as tough as it looks. THINK that if penguins or mutant turtles can do it, then seriously what’s stopping us from doing it, right?  Okay, they ARE cartoons  but I must say that I find learning how to surf easier than I expected.

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